FAIRFAX, Va., April 7, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- UNCF (United Negro College Fund) the nation's largest and most effective minority education organization, today announced that students who attend historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), like those that are members of UNCF, choose their colleges based on factors including their strong desire for a sense of belonging and the HBCUs' engaged campus environment. The findings are part of Students Speak!, a report developed by UNCF's Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Students Speak! is based on a comprehensive assessment conducted between May and December 2009. The data generated from the assessment was used to inform the work of UNCF's Institute for Capacity Building (ICB) which focuses on building capacity at higher education institutions serving African American and other underserved students. The report's perspective on what students have to say about why HBCUs are still relevant not only benefits the institutions in recruiting and attracting future students, it offers important insight into the challenges that many students face as they declare their intentions to attend HBCUs. The report's findings from the students' perspective offers evidence about what makes HBCUs special and unique in their approach to educating their students. Participants identified several factors that influenced their choice of institution.
A Strong Desire for a Sense of Belonging
One of the most significant common themes focused on the need to feel connected--a sense of belonging. Students expressed their need to feel welcomed at their institutions and identified institutional characteristics (e.g. small, family-oriented environment, opportunity to explore their cultural roots, etc.) that helped them to adapt.
An Engaged Campus Environment
Students confirmed that the academic and social environments of institutions play a significant role in student adaptation, engagement on campus and educational aspiration and attainment. Additionally, they highlighted how their HBCU experience had a significant impact on their personal growth and development, academic and otherwise. Moreover, they described how meaningful relationships with faculty and the ethnic and academic diversity on their campuses enhanced their academic engagement and sense of self.
Overall, the perspectives from this report highlight important factors associated with precollege experiences that might drive interest in attending an HBCU, even as progress is being made on enhancing the diversity of institutions that are predominantly white. Students also offer perspective on what they find most beneficial and unique about their learning experiences as they matriculate through their HBCU of choice.
Understanding why students find particular institutions attractive is important as institutions build from their historic mission and expand their capacity to serve a growing diverse population of potential college students.
"The President has committed the country to regaining world leadership in the percentage of citizens with college education by 2020 and HBCUs will help ensure this goal is met. HBCUs are the right schools for many minority students who will become the next generation of doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers and business professionals," said Michael L. Lomax, Ph.D., UNCF president and CEO. "HBCUs represent approximately four percent of all postsecondary institutions, but produce 21 percent of African American college graduates."
UNCF--the United Negro College Fund--is the nation's largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students' education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 39 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding 21 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 900 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized motto, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste®." Learn more at www.UNCF.org.